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Full text of "W. S. Churchill '' On A United Europe'' [ 1947]"

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UNITED EUROPE MEETING 

A SPEECH AT THE ALBERT HALL 

14 MAY 1947 


11 May—The Conservative Party Central Office issue the “Industrial 
Charter”. 

12 May—The Royal Family land in England on return from their visit 
to the Union of South Africa. 

14 May—A further £50,000,000 of the American Loan is drawn by 
Britain. Total withdrawals now amount to £437,500,000. 

14 May—The United Europe Committee holds a public meeting at the 
Albert Hall, London. 


[14 May 1947 

All the greatest things are simple, and many can be expressed in a single 
word: Freedom; Justice; Honour; Duty; Mercy; Hope. We who have 
come together here to-night, representing almost all the political parties 
in our British national life and nearly all the creeds and churches of the 
Western world—this large audience filling a famous hall— we also can 
express our purpose in a single word—“Europe”. At school we learned 
from the maps hung on the walls, and the advice of our teachers that 
there is a continent called Europe. I remember quite well being taught 
this as a child, and after living a long time, I still believe it is true. 
However, professional geographers now tell us that the Continent of 
Europe is really only the peninsula of the Asiatic land mass. I must tell 
you in all faith that I feel that this would be an arid and uninspiring 
conclusion, and for myself, I distinctly prefer what I was taught when 1 
was a boy. 

It has been finely said by a young English writer, Mr. Sewell, that the 
real demarcation between Europe and Asia is no chain of mountains, no 
natural frontier, but a system of beliefs and ideas which we call Western 
Civilisation. “In the rich pattern of this culture”, says Mr. Sewell, “there 


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are many strands; the Hebrew belief in God; the Christian message of 
compassion and redemption; the Greek love of truth, beauty and 
goodness; the Roman genius for law. Europe is a spiritual conception. 
But if men cease to ho d that conception in their minds, cease to feel its 
worth in their hearts, it will die.” 

These are not my words, but they are my faith; and we are here to 
proclaim our resolve that the spiritual conception of Europe shall not die. 
We declare, on the contrary, that it shall live and shine, and cast a 
redeeming illumination upon a world of confusion and woe. That is what 
has brought us all together here this evening, and that is what is going to 
keep us all together—however sharply or even deeply we may be divided 
—until our goal is reached and our hopes are realised. 

In our task of reviving the glories and happiness of Europe, and her 
prosperity, it can certainly be said that we start at the bottom of her 
fortunes. Here is the fairest, most temperate, most fertile area of the 
globe. The influence and the power of Europe and of Christendom have 
for centuries shaped and dominated the course of history. The sons and 
daughters of Europe have gone forth and carried their message to every 
part of the world. Religion, law, learning, art, science, industry, 
throughout the world all bear, in so many lands, under every sky and in 
every clime, the stamp of European origin, or the trace of European 
influence. 

But what is Europe now? It is a rubble-heap, a charnel-house, a 
breeding-ground of pestilence and hate. Ancient nationalistic feuds and 
modern ideological factions distract and infuriate the unhappy, hungry 
populations. Evil teachers urge the paying-off old scores with 
mathematical precision, and false guides point to unsparing retribution as 
the pathway to prosperity. Is there then to be no respite? Has Europe’s 
mission come to an end? Has she nothing to give to the world but the 
contagion of the Black Death? Are her peoples to go on harrying and 
tormenting one another by war and vengeance until all that invests 
human life with dignity and comfort has been obliterated? Are the States 
of Europe to continue for ever to squander the first fruits of their toil 
upon the erection of new barriers, military fortifications and tariff walls 
and passport networks against one another? Are we Europeans to become 
incapable, with all our tropical and colonial dependencies, with all our 
long-created trading connections, with all that modern production and 
transportation can do, of even averting famine from the mass of our 
peoples? Are we all, through our poverty and our quarrels, for ever to be 
a burden and a danger to the rest of the world? Do we imagine that we 
can be carried forward indefinitely upon the shoulders—broad though 


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they be—of the United States of America? 

The time has come when these questions must be answered. This is the 
hour of choice and surely the choice is plain. If the people of Europe 
resolve to come together and work together for mutual advantage, to 
exchange blessings instead of curses, they still have it in their power to 
sweep away the horrors and miseries which surround them, and to allow 
the streams of freedom, happiness and abundance to begin again their 
healing flow. This is the supreme opportunity, and if it be cast away, no 
one can predict that it will ever return or what the resulting catastrophe 
will be. 

In my experience of large enterprises, I have found it is often a mistake 
to try to settle everything at once. Far off, on the skyline, we can see the 
peaks of the Delectable Mountains. But we cannot tell what lies between 
us and them. We know where we want to go; but we cannot foresee all 
the stages of the journey, nor can we plan our marches as in a military 
operation. We are not acting in the field of force, but in the domain of 
opinion. We cannot give orders. We can only persuade. We must go 
forward, step by step, and I will therefore explain in general terms where 
we are and what are the first things we have to do. We have now at once 
to set on foot an organisation in Great Britain to promote the cause of 
United Europe, and to give this idea the prominence and vitality 
necessary for it to lay hold of the minds of our fellow countrymen, to 
such an extent that it will affect their actions and influence the course of 
national policy. 

We accept without question the world supremacy of the United 
Nations Organisation. In the Constitution agreed at San Francisco direct 
provision was made for regional organisations to be formed. United 
Europe will form one major Regional entity. There is the United States 
with all its dependencies; there is the Soviet Union; there is the British 
Empire and Commonwealth; and there is Europe, with which Great 
Britain is profoundly blended. Here are the four main pillars of the world 
Temple of Peace. Let us make sure that they will all bear the weight 
which will be imposed and reposed upon them. 

There are several important bodies which are working directly for the 
federation of the European States and for the creation of a Federal 
Constitution for Europe. I hope that may eventually be achieved. There is 
also the movement associated with Mr. Van Zeeland for the economic 
integration of Europe. With all these movements we have the most 
friendly relations. We shall all help each other all we can because we all 
go the same way home. It is not for us at this stage to attempt to define or 
prescribe the structure of constitutions. We ourselves are content, in the 



first instance, to present the idea of United Europe, in which our country 
will play a decisive part, as a moral, cultural and spiritual conception to 
which all can rally without being disturbed by divergencies about 
structure. It is for the responsible statesmen, who have the conduct of 
affairs in their hands and the power of executive action, to shape and 
fashion the structure. It is for us to lay the foundation, to create the 
atmosphere and give the driving impulsion. 

First I turn to France. For 40 years I have marched with France. I have 
shared her joys and sufferings. I rejoice in her reviving national strength. 
I will never abandon this long comradeship. But we have a proposal to 
make to France which will give all Frenchmen a cause for serious 
thought and valiant decision. If European unity is to be made an effective 
reality before it is too late, the wholehearted efforts both of France and 
Britain will be needed from the outset. They must go forward hand in 
hand. They must in fact be founder-partners in this movement. 

The central and almost the most serious problem which glares upon 
the Europe of to-day is the future of Germany. Without a solution of this 
problem, there can be no United Europe. Except within the framework 
and against the background of a United Europe this problem is incapable 
of solution. In a continent of divided national States, Germany and her 
hard-working people will not find the means or scope to employ their 
energies. Economic suffocation will inevitably turn their thoughts to 
revolt and to revenge. Germany will once again become a menace to her 
neighbours and to the whole world; and the fruits of victory and 
liberation will once more be cast away. But on the wider stage of a 
United Europe German industry and German genius would be able to 
find constructive and peaceful outlets. Instead of being a centre of 
poverty and a source of danger, the German people would be enabled to 
Dring back prosperity in no small measure, not only to themselves, but to 
the whole continent. 

Germany to-day lies prostrate, famishing among ruins. Obviously no 
initiative can be expected from her. It is for France and Britain to take the 
lead. Together they must, in a friendly manner, bring the German people 
back into the European circle. No one can say, and we need not attempt 
to forecast, the future constitution of Germany. Various individual 
German States are at present being recreated. There are the old States and 
Principalities of the Germany of former days to which the culture of the 
world owed much. But without prejudice to any future question of 
German federation, these individual States might well be invited to take 
their place in the Council of Europe. Thus, in looking back to happier 
days we should hope to mark the end of that long trail of hatred and 



retaliation which has already led us all, victors and vanquished alike, into 
the pit of squalor, slaughter and ruin. 

The prime duty and opportunity of bringing about this essential 
reunion belongs to us and to our French friends across the Channel. 
Strong bonds of affection, mutual confidence, common interest and 
similar outlook link France and Britain together. The Treaty of Alliance 
which has lately been signed only gives formal expression to the 
community of sentiment that already exists as an indisputable and 
indestructible fact. It is true that this task of reconciliation requires on the 
part of France, which has suffered so cruelly, an act of faith, sublime in 
character; but it is by this act of faith and by this act of faith alone that 
France will regain her historic position in the leadership of Europe. 

There is also another leading member of our family of nations to be 
held in mind. There is Italy. Everything that I have said about the 
imperative need of reaching a reconciliation with the German race and 
the ending of the fearful quarrels that have ruined them, and almost 
ruined us, applies in a less difficult degree to the Italian people, who wish 
to dwell happily and industriously within their beautiful country, and 
who were hurled by a dictator into the hideous struggles of the North. I 
am told that this idea of a United Europe makes an intense appeal to 
Italians, who look back across the centuries of confusion and disorder to 
the glories of the classic age, when a dozen legions were sufficient to 
preserve peace and law throughout vast territories and when free men 
could travel freely under the sanction of a common citizenship. We hope 
to reach again a Europe purged of the slavery of ancient days in which 
men will be as proud to say “I am a European” as once they were to say 
“Civis Romanus sum”. We hope to see a Europe where men of every 
country will think as much of being a European as of belonging to their 
native land, and wherever they go in this wide domain will truly feel 
“Here I am at home”. How simple it would all be, and how crowned with 
glory, if that should ever arise. 

It will of course be asked: “What are the political and physical 
boundaries of the United Europe you are trying to create? Which 
countries will be in and which out?” It is not our task or wish to draw 
frontier lines, but rather to smooth them away. Our aim is to bring about 
the unity of all nations of all Europe. We seek to exclude no State whose 
territory lies in Europe and which assures to its people those fundamental 
personal rights and liberties on which our democratic European 
civilisation has been created. Some countries will feel able to come into 
our circle sooner, and others later, according to the circumstances in 
which they are placed. But they can all be sure that whenever they are 



able to join, a place and a welcome will be waiting for them at the 
European Council table. 

When I first began writing about the United States of Europe some 15 
years ago, I wondered whether the U.S.A. would regard such a 
development as antagonistic to their interest, or even contrary to their 
safety. But all that has passed away. The whole movement of American 
opinion is favourable to the revival and re-creation of Europe. This is 
surely not unnatural when we remember how the manhood of the United 
States has twice in a lifetime been forced to re-cross the Atlantic Ocean 
and give their lives and shed their blood and pour out their treasure as the 
result of wars originating from ancient European feuds. One cannot be 
surprised that they would like to see a peaceful and united Europe taking 
its place among the foundations of the World Organisation to which they 
are devoted. I have no doubt that, far from encountering any opposition 
or prejudice from the Great Republic of the New World, our Movement 
will have their blessing and their aid. 

We here in Great Britain have always to think of the British self- 
governing Dominions—Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa. 
We are joined together by ties of free will and affection which have stood 
unyielding against all the ups and downs of fortune. We are the centre 
and summit of a world-wide commonwealth of nations. It is necessary 
that any policy this island may adopt towards Europe and in Europe 
should enjoy the full sympathy and approval of the peoples of the 
Dominions. But why should we suppose that they will not be with us in 
this cause? They feel with us that Britain is geographically and 
historically a part of Europe, and that they also have their inheritance in 
Europe. If Europe united is to be a living force, Britain will have to play 
her full part as a member of the European family. The Dominions also 
know that their youth, like that of the United States, has twice in living 
memory traversed the immense ocean spaces to fight and die in wars 
brought about by European discord in the prevention of which they have 
been powerless. We may be sure that the cause of United Europe, in 
which the mother country must be a prime mover, will in no way be 
contrary to the sentiments which join us all together with our Dominions 
in the august circle of the British Crown. 

It is of course alleged that all advocacy of the ideal of United Europe is 
nothing but a manoeuvre in the game of power politics, and that it is a 
sinister plot against Soviet Russia. There is no truth in this. The whole 
purpose of a united democratic Europe is to give decisive guarantees 
against aggression. Looking out from the ruins of some of their most 
famous cities and from amid the cruel devastation of their fairest lands, 


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the Russian people should surely realise how much they stand to gain by 
the elimination of the causes of war and the fear of war on the European 
Continent. The creation of a healthy and contented Europe is the first and 
truest interest of the Soviet Union. We had therefore hoped that all 
sincere efforts to promote European agreement and stability would 
receive, as they deserve, the sympathy and support of Russia. Instead, 
alas, all this beneficent design has been denounced and viewed with 
suspicion by the propaganda of the Soviet Press and radio. We have 
made no retort and I do not propose to do so to-night. But neither could 
we accept the claim that the veto of a single power, however respected, 
should bar and prevent a movement necessary to the peace, amity and 
well-being of so many hundreds of millions of toiling and striving men 
and women. 

And here I will invoke the interest of the broad, proletarian masses. 
We see before our eyes hundreds of millions of humble homes in Europe 
and in lands outside which have been affected by war. Are they never to 
have a chance to thrive and flourish? Is the honest, faithful, breadwinner 
never to be able to reap the fruits of his labour? Can he never bring up his 
children in health and joy and with the hopes of better days? Can he 
never be free from the fear of foreign invasion, the crash of the bomb or 
the shell, the tramp of the hostile patrol, or what is even worse, the knock 
upon his door of the political police to take the loved one far from the 
protection of law and justice, when all the time by one spontaneous effort 
of his will he could wake from all these nightmare horrors and stand 
forth in his manhood, free in the broad light of day? The conception of 
European unity already commands strong sympathy among the leading 
statesmen in almost all countries. “Europe must federate or perish”, said 
the present Prime Minister, Mr. Attlee, before the late terrible war. He 
said that, and I have no reason to suppose that he will abandon that 
prescient declaration at a time when the vindication of his words is at 
hand. Of course we understand that until public opinion expresses itself 
more definitely, Governments hesitate to take positive action. It is for us 
to provide the proof of solid popular support, both here and abroad, 
which will give the Governments of Europe confidence to go forward 
and give practical effect to their beliefs. We cannot say how long it will 
be before this stage is reached. We ask, however, that in the meantime 
His Majesty’s Government, together with other Governments, should 
approach the various pressing Continental problems from a European 
rather than from a restricted national angle. In the discussions on the 
German and Austrian peace settlements, and indeed throughout the 
whole diplomatic field the ultimate ideal should be held in view. Every 



new arrangement that is made should be designed in such a manner as to 
be capable of later being fitted into the pattern of a United Europe. 

We do not of course pretend that United Europe provides the final and 
complete solution to all the problems of international relationships. The 
creation of an authoritative, all-powerful world order is the ultimate aim 
towards which we must strive. Unless some effective World Super- 
Government can be set up and brought quickly into action, the prospects 
for peace and human progress are dark and doubtful. 

But let there be no mistake upon the main issue. Without a United 
Europe there is no sure prospect of world government. It is the urgent 
and indispensable step towards the realisation of that ideal. After the First 
Great War the League of Nations tried to build, without the aid of the 
U.S.A., an international order upon a weak, divided Europe. Its failure 
cost us dear. 

To-day, after the Second World War, Europe is far weaker and still 
more distracted. One of the four main pillars of the temple of peace lies 
before us in shattered fragments. It must be assembled and reconstructed 
before there can be any real progress in building a spacious 
superstructure of our desires. If, during the next five years, it is found 
possible to build a world organisation of irresistible force and inviolable 
authority for the purpose of securing peace, there are no limits to the 
blessings which all men may enjoy and share. Nothing will help forward 
the bui ding of that world organisation so much as unity and stability in a 
Europe that is conscious of her collective personality and resolved to 
assume her rightful part in guiding the unfolding destinies of man. 

In the ordinary day-to-day affairs of life, men and women expect 
rewards for successful exertion, and this is often right and reasonable. 
But those who serve causes as majestic and high as ours need no reward; 
nor are our aims limited by the span of human life. If success come to us 
soon, we shall be happy. If our purpose is delayed, if we are confronted 
by obstacles and inertia, we may still be of good cheer, because in a 
cause, the righteousness of which will be proclaimed by the march of 
future events and the judgment of happier ages, we shall have done our 
duty, we shall have done our best. 


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